No Money for a Week? Here’s What to Do.
We’ve all been there — broke as a joke with nary a loose coin under the couch cushions. Whether it’s self-imposed or just money mismanagement, it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. So if you find yourself in such a situation, don’t panic. You’ll get through it with these been-there-done-that tips from yours truly. (See also: Emergency Belt-Tightening)
1. Cancel Your Plans
If you don’t have a dime to your name but dinner and drinks scheduled with friends, it’s time to make that tough call. You just can’t afford to indulge. Same goes for any other activities/plans you have on your calendar that require cash. Sacrifices must be made, and unfortunately, these are on the chopping block. This is only temporary, though — don’t beat yourself up about it. There’s always next week.
2. Raid Your Pantry
No more eating out or ordering in. Those luxuries cost money, and you don’t have any. Instead, this is a great time to eat some of that food sitting in your pantry that you’ve purchased over the past weeks and months that’s collecting dust. So you’re not stuck eating ramen all week (although that’s probably not a bad idea) out of laziness, make a list of the ingredients in your fridge and pantry to create a meal plan for the week that will provide cost-effective variety and nutrition.
3. Find Things to Sell
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Everybody has something they can sell. Go through your things and decide what has value and what you can part with. If the situation isn’t serious, stick to some of the junk you have lying around — no need to jump the gun. If you’re in a real bind, however, it might be time to think about unloading some of those higher-end items — like your video-game console, for instance — for an influx of quick cash. Some of you probably rolled your eyes in that "yeah, right" kinda way, but would you rather stay fed or play "Halo 4"? After about four days of living on no money, the answer should be clear.
4. Look for Side Work
Since you can’t have fun with your friends shutting down the bar or shopping till you drop this week, use this time to make honest money to help you get back on track. There are usually small side jobs listed on Craigslist that you can look into, but when I was in college and needed a financial boost I called the Bank of Grandma, which "hired" me to do odd jobs like yard work or cleaning kitchen cabinets. They might be tedious jobs, sure, but they pay — and because it’s grandma, they sometimes pay a lot more than they’re worth.
5. Hide the Credit Cards
It’s tempting to whip out the plastic when you’re in a pinch, but it’s completely counterintuitive to fixing the predicament you’re in. Charging your way through this tough time will only increase your debt and add to your low morale. To avoid temptation, remove the cards from your wallet and lock them in safe. If you think you still can’t resist, cut up the cards (you shouldn’t have them at all if you’re completely broke) or give them to someone you trust for safekeeping.
6. Put the Car Away
Gas isn’t cheap, so it’s in your best interest to put the car in park for a week and find another mode of transportation. Walking and biking are great, but if you have to go further than your feet will allow, look into public transportation. If public transportation isn’t available where you are, lean on a friend or coworker. Ask your coworker if you can carpool with him or her with the promise that you’ll return the favor next week, and reach out to a friend if you have a doctor’s appointment or something equally important. Just don’t push it. Don’t take advantage of your friends’ goodwill to go somewhere you really have no business going in your situation. That’s a good way to tick off that helping hand.
7. Call for Backup
You don’t want to do it, but sometimes you have to. If there’s anybody in this world who will almost always bail your broke butt out, it’s mom and dad. If you’re really hurtin’, maybe it’s not a bad time to get on your knees and beg for some dough. Yeah, your pride will take a hit, but at least you won’t have to eat ketchup sandwiches for the rest of the week. Start the conversation with a compliment and a hug for mom. That’s half the battle already won.
8. Reevaluate Your Priorities
If you have absolutely no money for an entire week, there’s something wrong with your money management and spending habits — especially if you’re employed. This week should be spent reflecting on your financial mistakes, how you got yourself into this situation, and thinking of ways to change it. Whether that’s getting a better job, cutting out the excess recreation in your life, or reducing your budget by shutting off the cable, changes must be made if you want to start moving in the right direction.
9. Make a Positive Change
Reevaluating your priorities is the first step. Implementing your new plans for financial health is the next. Don’t just think about what you should do — act. Pound the pavement to get a better job or a side job. Reach out to contacts who might have an opportunity for you. Use this past week as a blueprint for how you can cut back but still live reasonably well. If at the end of this week you haven’t put in place a plan that will positively change your future, you haven’t been broke long enough. You can expect to be broke a lot more often, too. It’s time to make big life decisions, and that starts today.